Tiberius Caesar had been ruling for 15 years. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. Herod was the ruler of Galilee. His brother Philip was the ruler of Iturea and Traconitis. Lysanias was ruler of Abilene.
Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. At that time God's word came to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert.
He went into all the countryside around the Jordan River. There he preached that people should be baptized and turn away from their sins. Then God would forgive them.
Here is what is written in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. It says, "A messenger is calling out in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.
Every valley will be filled in. Every mountain and hill will be made level. The crooked roads will become straight. The rough ways will become smooth.
And everyone will see God's salvation.' " (Isaiah 40:3-5)
John spoke to the crowds coming to be baptized by him. He said, "You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God's anger?
Produce fruit that shows you have turned away from your sins. And don't start saying to yourselves, 'Abraham is our father.' I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones.
The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don't produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire."
"Then what should we do?" the crowd asked.
John answered, "If you have extra clothes, you should share with those who have none. And if you have extra food, you should do the same."
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
"Don't collect any more than you are required to," John told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" John replied, "Don't force people to give you money. Don't bring false charges against people. Be happy with your pay."
The people were waiting. They were expecting something. They were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I am will come. I'm not good enough to untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
His pitchfork is in his hand to toss the straw away from his threshing floor. He will gather the wheat into his storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can't be put out."
John said many other things to warn the people. He also preached the good news to them.
But John found fault with Herod, the ruler of Galilee, because of Herodias. She was the wife of Herod's brother. John also spoke strongly to Herod about all the other evil things he had done.
So Herod locked him up in prison. He added this sin to all his others.